When it comes to eCommerce and inventory management, anything that saves time and effort is valuable. Even shaving off a few seconds can make an enormous difference in the long run, especially when dealing with a large inventory.
Of course, this isn’t as easy as it might sound, what with all the individual steps involved in the fulfillment process and the high standards customers have for shipping. Mistakes in picking and packing, delays in getting packages out for delivery, or damaging items in the process all create a poor customer experience. Even missing delivery deadlines can cause huge problems with the customer’s order. To avoid these issues, your business needs to maintain quality standards that mean you can’t rush.
Warehouse management software like Logiwa will streamline this process and help you save loads of time in a multitude of ways. As a business owner, you know the value this degree of efficiency provides. So what else can you do to move faster? Where else can you save time during warehouse management without cutting corners?
Returns and Reverse Logistics
Product returns are inevitable in eCommerce. No matter how great your product photos and descriptions are on your website, you’ll still face customers who want to return something. Reasons for returns vary from the sensible to the, well… unusual, but they’re always going to happen.
When you receive a return, you need to go through the process of reverse logistics — taking items back into your warehouse to determine if any value can still be derived from them. You need to evaluate each returned product, whether it can be resold, and what needs to be done with it. Missing barcodes and other issues complicate matters. Logiwa’s customer returns features can help this go a lot smoother once the returned products reach your warehouse.
But what about having more control over the items that get returned to you in the first place?
The Benefits of a Return Merchandise Authorization System
A Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) is a form issued to a customer that authorizes them to return their purchase to you. An RMA might include a shipping label if the business pays for return shipping.
With a system to issue RMAs, your business can exert some control over the items your warehouse will receive. As long as you have it spelled out in your policy, you have the right to refuse customer returns under the circumstances you define. This can cut down on the number of completely unsalable products that are returned to you for your warehouse to deal with, but it also provides the benefit of foreknowledge about the condition of the returns you do accept.
RMAs enable you to collect information from the customer ahead of time, including photos of the product. You can require proof from the customer whether the item is resalable, still has its original packaging, has an intact barcode, and more — all of which influence what you do with it in the warehouse. Of course, you’ll still need to deal with it once it gets to you, but if you’re prepared with knowledge early on, you have options.
Using RMAs to Simplify Receiving
When you look at the photos a customer provides during the RMA process, you may be able to tell right away what you’ll be doing when you receive it. Is it completely unopened? Can it go straight back to its place in your warehouse after scanning it back into the system? Or are you going to need to handle it a different way?
Knowing these facts can enable you to create a more streamlined system where part of the work is already done before the returns arrive, and less work means more time saved. For example, a business could use RMAs to:
- Refuse certain returns outright, preventing them from reaching the warehouse at all
- Issue different shipping labels so products that can go right back into stock can be more easily separated from products needing to be repaired or destroyed, enabling you to split the workload more effectively (for example, include a specific manager or team’s name on labels issued for items you know need extra inspection)
- Determine problems in their fulfillment process that may be causing damage to items (certain products always ending up damaged in the same way could indicate a warehouse-related issue)
- Give you more time to determine whether you have the inventory to replace a defective product
Of course, the situation will vary depending on the business, and you may come up with a different means of using RMAs to make inventory management easier. But it’s good to know that the tool is there, and can do more for you than might meet the eye at first — rather than just giving you power over whether a customer can make a return, you can also choose where, when and how.
It’s fair to say that an RMA system is an absolute necessity for eCommerce.
Implementing an RMA System for Your Online Store
A good RMA system provides the customer with a simple means of sending you the pertinent information about the product they want to return, such as by uploading photos. You should be able to automate some of the process, so look for the ability to display a list of customizable return reasons for the customer to select from. It’s also helpful if you can set a time limit on RMAs, preventing them from being initiated outside the product’s return window.
Preferably, you’ll be able to find RMA software that integrates perfectly into your online store’s software. However, that’s not always the case. The easiest solution is to run your online store on a feature-rich eCommerce platform that includes an RMA system out of the box — along with as many other features and integrations as you can get your hands on. You’ll end up saving time and money in the long run, and who doesn’t want that?